Scelidosaurus: the first complete dinosaur skeleton ever found

Hyperaxion Aug 29, 2020

Scelidosaurus lived 193 million years ago and was quite different. Now, scientists have finally managed to study it in detail.

The first complete dinosaur skeleton ever identified has finally been studied in detail, thanks to British paleontologist David Norman from the University of Cambridge.

His findings were published on August 18 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Scelidosaurus: the first complete dinosaur skeleton ever found
An artist’s impression of Scelidosaurus. (Credit: John Sibbick / University of Cambridge).

The specimen, a Scelidosaurus that lived 193 million years ago, was found more than 160 years ago on the Jurassic Coast, southwestern Britain.

At the time, the skeleton was sent to none other than Richard Owen, a leading British naturalist who coined the word “dinosaur”.

The specialist studied the general anatomy of Scelidosaurus and published two articles on the subject, but many details were left out and the first complete skeleton of a dinosaur has been forgotten – until now.

Three years ago, Norman “rediscovered” the skeleton and has since been studying it deeply.

His analysis allowed not only to reconstruct the animal’s appearance, but revealed that it is one of the first ancestors of ankylosaurs, known as the armor-plated “tanks” of the late Cretaceous period (between 100 million and 66 million years ago).

Studying its evolution

For more than a century, dinosaurs have been primarily classified according to the shape of their hip bones: they were either saurischians (lizard-hipped) or ornithischians (bird-hipped).

However, in 2017, Norman and a team of students argued that these groupings of dinosaur families needed to be reorganized, redefined and renamed.

In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers suggested that dinosaurs with bird hips and dinosaurs with lizard hips, such as tyrannosaurus, evolved from a common ancestor, contradicting more than a century of dinosaur evolutionary theory.

Another fact that emerged from his work was that the ornithischians first appeared in the Early Jurassic period (between 201 million and 174 million years ago).

Scelidosaurus is just such an Early Jurassic dinosaur and therefore represents a species that appeared at, or close to, the evolutionary ‘birth’ of the Ornithischia,” Norman explained. “Given that context, what was actually known of Scelidosaurus? The answer: remarkably little!”

The scientist also found that these animals had horns on the back of the skull, in addition to bones that were never found in any other dinosaur.

“It is also clear from the rough texturing of the skull bones that it was, in life, covered by hardened horny scutes – a little bit like the scutes plastered over the surface of the skulls of living turtles,” Norman said.

Related topics:

Cretaceous dinosaur

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